The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), located in Woods Hole, MA is leading a MARINER Category 1 project to design and develop a cultivation system for the tropical seaweed Eucheuma isiforme to produce biomass for biofuels. Eucheuma is a commercially valuable species of “red” macroalgae, primarily cultivated in Asia, which has been difficult to propagate in a cost-effective manner. Cultivation of Eucheuma is labor intensive — making up almost 70% of the production costs — and is limited to easily accessible areas near shore. The MBL team is prototyping a farm system that will mechanize the seeding and harvesting process to drastically reduce labor costs and allow farms to be deployed in offshore areas to greatly expand large-scale production and increase biomass yield per dollar of capital. The goal of the project is to cost-effectively produce biomass in underutilized areas of the Gulf of Mexico and tropical U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones where year-round production is possible. With the support of our partners and collaborators, the MBL is deploying experimental farms in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Belize where a wide range of environmental conditions and exposure to prevailing winds and waves create an ideal testbed to understand the biological, physiological, and chemical characteristics of Eucheuma grown in offshore waters. If successful, this project can disrupt the current practices in the red macroalgae market, reduce reliance on imports from foreign sources, and ultimately scale to production levels relevant for bioenergy production.
PI: Loretta Roberson; email@example.com
C.A. Goudey & Associates, University of Connecticut, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System (CariCOOS), Cascadia Research Collective, Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (CINVESTAV), Makai Ocean Engineering, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL, Rutgers University, The Nature Conservancy, Two Docks Shellfish, University of California Irvine, University of California Santa Barbara